Tesco’s flagship Grocery Distribution Centre in Daventry is the first in the country to be designed and built with Easilift Loading Systems’ and Traka’s Dock Management System (DMS) – a revolutionary hi-tech reporting and safety solution – in mind.
Tesco has already committed to installing the system, which is designed to prevent the premature departure of vehicles from the loading bay, at the Goods In section of all new Tesco distribution centres across the UK, but Easilift believes that integrating the DMS ‘from birth’ brings significant cost savings alongside enormous operational advantages.
"The Dock Management System can be retro-fitted to existing warehouses, but of course there are benefits to incorporating it at the design/build stage," explains Rob Fay, Managing Director of Easilift Loading Systems.
"Control panels and cabling become integral with the bay design, and we have been able to be much more dynamic in the layout of loading bays because of the confidence that the DMS brings to safety.
"The result is a state-of-the-art Goods In operation for Tesco that increases speed and optimises space, while being safer than ever before. It’s a blueprint for the future of distribution."
With four double deck lifting platforms and 66 dock leveller bays specified for Goods In, Tesco is running a huge operation that requires an efficient system to ensure safe but swift movement of vehicles in and out of the bays.
Easilift has developed a bespoke design interface in which scissor-lift pods are paired around a central walkway. Ordinarily, the tighter spaces would increase the potential risks involved with vehicle drive-offs, but the DMS locks down any movement until it is safe to do so.
The Dock Management System is a pioneering collaboration between Easilift’s dock door and associated control equipment and Traka’s electronic key control system. It works by using electronic keys – known as iFobs -each containing a unique electronic chip, which is individually programmed to open or close one specific door when inserted into a control panel.
The system thus becomes an integral part of a robust protocol whereby drivers are required to hand in their ignition keys when they arrive at the Goods In office. The keys are clipped to an iFob, which is inserted into the main Traka control panel, allowing a corresponding iFob to be removed and handed to the driver.
Only then is it possible to open the bay door, when an authorised operative inserts their personal iFob into a secondary control panel located adjacent to each door.
Once loading or unloading is complete, the operative closes the door. This sends a message to the Goods In control box, permitting the removal of the driver’s keys – but only after the deposit iFob is inserted back into the box.
Tesco trialled a retro-fit Dock Management System at 26 Goods In loading bays at the Hinckley depot, where it met the robust demands of a fast-moving but traditionally laid-out warehouse environment.
At Daventry, the DMS has confirmed its ability to maintain safety alongside the unusual design interface. Duncan Robertson of Tesco explains: "Since we opened, the tight control offered by the Dock Management System is ensuring trouble-free unloading."
Tesco is also enjoying its first chance to see the Dock Management System as an integral part of the building design, as all prior installations have been retro-fitted. At Daventry, the DMS is built into the pod design in integral control panels, all linked via internal cabling to the central controls in the Goods In office. This offers a unified, neater aesthetic impossible with retro-fit systems.
Otherwise, the set-up at the Grocery Distribution Centre brings all of the benefits Tesco already associates with the Dock Management System. Although the system was developed with a health and safety angle in mind, it has a whole range of other benefits. The system minimises the amount of time the door is open – which can save money and reduce carbon footprints for chilled distribution centres – and, furthermore, can provide an audit trail, logging who used what door and for how long to assist planning and maintenance.
"We were already impressed with the Dock Management System having seen it in use at other Tesco distribution centres, but we’re getting a much bigger sense of the technology’s possibilities in an environment where it was intended to be used from the start," confirms Duncan Robertson of Tesco. "It’s a real breakthrough not only in loading bay safety but also the future of warehouse design."
Easilift Loading Systems Ltd
Tel: 08451 301920
Fax: 01484 601401